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To really get a feel for northern Thailand, plan on spending at least a week here.
If You Have 2 Days. Spend your first day exploring the streets of Chiang Mai. On the second day rise early and drive up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. In the afternoon, visit Chian Rai and its mountainous surroundings.
If You Have 5 Days. Begin your stay in the north in Chiang Mai, flying from there to Mae Hong Son and take a tour of a nearby Karen village. Set out the next day (by hired car or bus) for Chiang Rai, stopping over for one night at Pai. On the third day, en route for Chiang Rai, you might consider overnighting in Tha Ton or Chiang Dao. On the fourth and fifth days make a circular tour to Chiang Saen to see its excavated ruins and meet the Mekong River, then to Ban Sop Ruak to visit the magnificent Hall of Opium museum. Finally, head to Mae Sai for a look at Burmese crafts in the busy local markets.
If You Have 7 Days. If you're lucky enough to have a week or more in northern Thailand, you'll have plenty of time to stay a night with a hill tribe family. Treks to these mountain villages, often done on elephants, can be arranged from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, and other communities. Sukhothai, a must-see destination, is a day's journey to the south, so the best way to include it in your itinerary is to return to Chiang Mai and catch a long-distance VIP bus to Sukhothai, where a tour of the well-preserved ruins of ancient Siam's most advanced and most civilized kingdom will take up one day. From Sukhothai, another six-hour bus ride returns you to Bangkok.